Closing down police stations leaves Black Country communities 'abandoned', MPs say

Police chiefs have been slammed for "abandoning communities" after announcing the closure of more than 20 police stations and bases.

Oldbury Police Station on Oldbury Ringway is set to close down in Summer 2024
Oldbury Police Station on Oldbury Ringway is set to close down in Summer 2024

Following a review the Black Country will lose seven stations over the next four years as West Midlands Police aims to shore up its finances in the face of a multi-million pound budget black hole.

Furious Tory MPs have hit out at the region's Labour Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Simon Foster for signing off on the scheme, which they say will deal a hammer blow to communities already suffering from the biggest crime surge in the country.

Mr Foster said the changes – which will save the force £5 million a year – would modernise the police estate and protect police officer jobs.

Shaun Bailey MP said he was outraged that his West Bromwich West constituency was losing three stations after West Midlands Police HQ underwent a major refurb in 2016.

"Once again we see a PCC so fixated on dogma that he has abandoned those who need him most," he said.

"Communities in Wednesbury, Oldbury and Tipton are some of the most affected and vulnerable when it comes to crime.

"The PCC has failed the first test by my communities and has chosen to totally abandon them rather than support them.

"I will continue to fight against Labour's police station closure programme.

"If they can find £40 million to refurb the PCCs office, surely they can find the money to keep our police stations open. We will not forget this."

Wolverhampton North East MP Jane Stevenson, said closing Wednesfield station was a "real blow".

"I'm really disappointed that the Labour PCC has not listened to local people in Wednesfield, or indeed to local Labour councillors, who overwhelmingly supported my campaign to keep the police station open and to reopen a public front desk," she said.

"Visible and accessible community policing must a priority in our city, and closing Wednesfield police station is a real blow."

She added she will be seeking a meeting with Mr Foster to urge him to reconsider or agree to open a smaller station on Wednesfield High Street.

Mike Wood said it was "bad for policing" that Brierley Hill station was being moved away from the centre of the borough.

The Dudley South MP, whose policeman father used to be based at the Brierley Hill site, said: "Clearly there needs to be better facilities for our local police but we need a police station at the heart of the borough."

PCC Simon Foster has signed off on plans to close down more than 20 police buildings

Aldridge-Brownhills MP Wendy Morton said: "The former Labour Police and Crime Commissioner promised a consultation with the people of my constituency.

"The current Labour Police and Crime Commissioner promised a review of his predecessor's plan offering hope to my constituents that we would be listened to, but instead the previous decision has been rubber stamped without any consultation.

"The latest decree will be met with dismay by many of my constituents and I will continue to oppose the decision to close Aldridge Police Station.

"The residents of Aldridge deserve better.

"At the very least they deserve the consultation that they were promised and I call upon the Commissioner Foster to honour his predecessor’s commitment to consult as opposed to riding roughshod over them and rubber stamping decisions to close their police station against their will."

Speaking at a meeting of the PCC's strategic board, West Midlands Police Chief Constable, Sir David Thompson, said: "This is £5 million a year that is diverted into policing and not into maintaining buildings. I think everybody would recognise that's a good thing."

He said the force was "absolutely committed to keeping teams locally based", adding: "These days increasingly, people are getting in touch with their local teams through social media, through Facebook and contact through the force's website rather than popping into the station - so there are still plenty of ways to meet the team and we do plenty of work to engage locally."

Sir David said: "Try not to see it as we're taking things away."

He said it was important not to look at policing through "rose-tinted glasses and sepia images" because modern policing was different and required investment in other areas.

Mr Foster, who succeeded fellow Labour politician David Jamieson in May, said it was understandable that communities were concerned over the disposal of police buildings.

He said the plans would maintain the current number of publicly accessible front desks, keep local officers based in their communities and modernise the estate.

Outlining his support for the proposals, he said: "These plans will save money too, that will be reinvested in protecting essential police officer numbers to keep people and their families safe and secure.

"One hundred officer posts a year rely on the £5 million savings from the estate programme, without those savings officer numbers will fall further."

Mr Foster reiterated his call to ministers for a "fair funding deal" for the West Midlands.

Andy Kelly, corporate asset management assistant director, said of the current estate there was "too much of it" that was in "poor condition".

He said the changes would allow the force to provide a "modern estate" that saves on running costs.

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News